Homosexuality Taunts Lead to $17.4 Million Verdict for LA Sanitation Worker

In recent news, a Los Angeles sanitation worker, James Pearl, who was taunted on the job regarding his perceived homosexuality comes away victorious with a $17.4 million verdict. The LA jury found that he endured routine harassment at the hands of his supervisors, who had falsely assumed he was gay. While the jurors deliberated for two hours, they did come out with a unanimous decision regarding James Pearl’s case.

The jurors decided that Pearl was subjected to verbal abuse, hazing, and bullying. For instance, Pearl’s photo was digitally altered to show him in a same-sex relationship with a subordinate. These altered images were circulated amongst the city employees as a part of the bullying campaign.

One of Pearl’s colleagues alerted a manager in the highest ranks of the Bureau of Sanitation regarding the situation and the mistreatment that was occurring, but according to court documentation, the supervisor did not take action. Pearl started his career with the Bureau of Sanitation in 2002. He was promoted in 2006 to wastewater collection supervisor.

In 2011, Pearl filed a complaint of discrimination with state regulators. In the complaint he alleged that he was transferred to an office in Reseda because he was black and as retaliation because he complained about misconduct in the workplace. Days after the complaint was filed, Pearl was formally notified that the city was recommending his firing. He was accused of falsifying time documents for a subordinate who was also perceived by those in the workplace to be gay. He was then terminated on August 30, 2011. He reported the situation to the state regulators, advising them that the firing was retaliation motivated by his perceived homosexuality. He also attempted to fight back against his firing through internal procedures with the L.A. Board of Civil Service Commission.

After 13 months off the job, the panel determined his firing was unfounded and Pearl was reinstated. While Pearl was off the job, a supervisor continued showing the digitally altered photo of Pearl to employees. When Pearl returned, he received a lower-paying day shift, regularly faced accusations of misconduct, and was given the same supervisor who had been showing the digitally altered photograph to employees. The leadership in the workplace referred to Pearl using derogatory terms and continued the bullying campaign by circulating offensive messages and leaving objects on Pearl’s desk suggestive of or related to homosexual behavior.

In court documentation, the city contended that Pearl did not complain internally regarding the alleged mistreatment that was occurring and also claimed this his work assignments were dictated by budget cuts and a diminished staff.

The California lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court in 2014. Pearl, who is now 55 years old, has been on permanent disability. He suffers from both physical and psychological damage as a result of the discrimination.

If you experience discrimination or harassment in the workplace, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.